Gentleman of Style Part III – Aly Khan’s Clothes and His Tragic Death
In Part I and Part II of our series on Prince Aly Khan, you learned a bit about his childhood, his passion for horses as well as women and his life. At the Gentleman’s Gazette we always have a particular interest in clothes and hence, we will show you how Aly Khan dressed before we cover his tragic death at the age of 48.
Aly Khan and The Clothes
When Aly Khan arrived at the UN building in his Cadillac one day, he was dressed in striped pants and a black coat with a French Legion of Honor ribbon in his lapel buttonhole. While the female spectators just stared at him echoing oohs and aahs, a man wondered aloud: “What the hell has he got that I haven’t got?”
In order to understand the aura of Aly Khan, we have to take a closer look at his body first. Apparently, back then many men wondered why Aly Khan was so successful with women, when they met him for the first time. Although his is not an unpleasant looking man, he is anything but remarkably handsome. He was not tall at all, measuring a smidge less than 5’6” and weighing about 165 pounds, while his black hair was noticeably thinning in front. His voice was not deep but instead slightly high-pitched while his superb Oxford accent definitely made him appear favorably. Aly Khan could not really be categorized by his appearance. A friend of his once explained: “When you see Aly in Karachi in Ismaili dress he looks like a Pakistani. In Paris he looks like a Frenchman. In Rome he could pass for any upper-class Italian. Even here in America Aly doesn’t look foreign.” Obviously, he had a very adaptable style, and generally he was never a disappointment but on one count: “Sartorially, he is no standout,” said an UN official. “His collar ends stick out. He is considered a poor dresser.”
Now, collar ends are clearly not supposed to stick out, but let’s take a closer look at Aly Kahn’s clothes.
In his 1936 wedding pictures he wears a 6×1 double breasted chalk stripe suit with a relatively high gorge and wide lapels. The jetted pockets are exactly leveled with the lowest pair of buttons and we can see some X-wrinkles which indicate that it is a little bit too tight. Consequently, the front gaps a little bit. Maybe he had something in his pocket. His trousers seem just a tad baggy but I think one can observe that regularly. His shiny black shoes are perfectly fine, as is his tie knot. The boutonniere is gigantic, but given the width of the lapel in it is not obnoxious in size. His shirt seems to be a little bit too long reaching almost to the beginning of his thumb but otherwise, the collar is not gapping and overall he makes a good appearance. As a side note, the Aga Khan to his right it wearing a single breasted 2 button peaked lapel suit with both front buttons closed, which does not look very good in my opinion. He always had a preference for lighter colored suits, which certainly did not help to diminish his waistline.
The next picture shows the young Aly Khan in a plain brown double breasted peaked lapel suit with a single breasted vest, of which the bottom vest button is worn undone. It is worn in combination with a plain colored white shirt, red tie and his moustache, he looks quite dapper in my opinion. The collar especially seems to fit splendidly.
Being a horse lover and trader, Aly Khan visited horse races with great frequency. In 1949, Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth appeared together at Royal Ascot in the Royal Enclosure – the area where the queen sits and where a formal morning coat or morning suit and top hat is obligatory for male attendants. At that time, divorcées were not allowed in the Royal enclosure and so these two caused some uproar. In any case, he wore an exquisite three piece mid grey morning suit with white shirt and tie
as well as a grey top hat. Again, his collar was not gapping at all. Considering that he was said to be a sartorial disappointment, he looks rather well put together. Just try to remember when you saw someone well dressed the last time in a morning coat!
In another photograph, in the circle with his family and Rita Hayworth, he looks relaxed in his double breasted chalk stripe suit with solid white shirt and solid colored tie. The collar again looks just fine.
Even in a tuxedo / dinner jacket with peaked lapels he cut a good figure.
Finally, we found a picture that was taken on 4th August 1952, showing Aly aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth upon its arrival in New York. In this photograph he is wearing a dark 6×2 double breasted suit with a white shirt and a solid tie. The lapel has a nice belly to it and the jetted pockets are aligned with the lowest pair of buttons. Even though he raises his
arm almost in a 90° angle, his coat including his collar seem to fit very well. This is only possible because of the coat’s high armhole. Ideally, every coat should be cut with such armholes though today this is rarely the case and often times a privilege of bespoke clothing.
In the pictures I saw, Aly Khan was always well dressed. Obviously, he was not a friend of flashy fabrics or pattern and usually chose a white shirt paired with a solid tie. While one could claim this is unexciting, it is most certainly not poor style.
However, the UN official was not the only critic of Aly Kahn’s clothes. Once, Aly was invited to a garden party, where photographers caught him wearing trousers which were obviously too long and too wide, covering almost his entire shoes. Subsequently, a journalist provided this picture to the Tailor and Cutter, back then the arbiter elegantiarum. In a very British sense of humor, and very sophisticated tone, the verdict was: “Oh, that dear man again. He wouldn’t be so bad, y’know, if he would just learn to keep his trousers up.”
His Early Death
Aly Khan had spent 12th May, 1960 at the race track in Longchamp. That day he told to a friend of his:”Don’t play my horse today, I don’t feel lucky” before he went home in order to get changed in a blue tuxedo prior to attending a dinner party. Before he left, one source claims he called his host – French industrialist Gerard Bonnet – to let him know he would be late. Another source says that he was to meet his half brother Prince Sadruddin near the St. Could golf course. Together with his pregnant fiancée Simone Bodin, also known as Bettina, and his chauffeur on the back seat, he drove his new Lancia rather slowly since he was still breaking in the engine of the car. Near Saint Cloud, a Simca driven by one Mr. Bichaton swung into the center of the road as it rounded the curve and hit the Lancia. Bettina, Aly’s chauffer and passengers of the other car escaped with a shock and minor injuries, but Aly was pinned under the Lancia’s steering wheel, leaving him with a gash on the skull but no other outside grave wounds. In any case, it was enough to kill him.
In his will, Prince Aly Khan had expressed his wish to be buried at Salamia among Syrian Ismailis. However, he was buried at Chateau d’Horizon. Later, the coffin was transported by chanting and praying Ismailis on a special train including the Aga Khan IV. Once they arrived, Aly Khan was put into a temporary grave before the final burial ceremony was held over 12 years after his death on 12th July 1972 in Salamia, Syria.
His estate was more or less equally distributed between his children. Both of his sons had never been interested in horses at all, and so people speculated who would end up buying all the fine race horses. However, the Aga Khan IV decided to keep the family tradition alive and moved to Paris from where he could easily get to Chantilly, Normandy by car and Ireland by plane.
Although Aly Khan died when he was just 48 years old, he probably had seen more of the world than most others experienced- and taken more risks than others and certainly enjoyed his life to the fullest extent.